Can You Write a Great Essay? Apply to Win This Maine Inn

Can You Write a Great Essay? Apply to Win This Maine Inn

Your writing chops could be your ticket to small business success.

Janice Sage, innkeeper at Maine’s Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant, is retiring after 22 years. She’s giving the inn away, and she’s choosing the winner through an essay contest.

Sage actually earned her own rights to the inn by writing an essay, and she had never been to Maine before she won the inn in 1993. While Sage could sell the business, she has said she would rather give it away to someone with passion and business know-how.

How to win the inn

Dream of being the next innkeeper? Sage told the Boston Globe that she’ll be looking for “grammatically correct entries that show a passion for work.”

The prompt for your 200-word essay: “Why I would like to own and operate a Country Inn.”

Sage will keep the application money and narrow down the applicant pool to 20. Then, a judging duo with no stake in the business will choose the winner. The new owner will also receive $20,000 to put toward the business.

Applications are due by June 6, 2015. You’ll need to include the $125 application fee, and deliver your essay by snail mail.

If fewer than 7,500 entries are received, entrants will have their application fees refunded. The search will still move forward, but if a winner is chosen, they won’t receive the $20,000 award.

Don’t plan to make this your vacation home

The Boston Globe story illustrated the difficulty of running a bustling B&B: Center Lovell Inn has seven guest rooms, 10 staffers and 120 dinner guests on a good night. The innkeeper tends to be on duty 17 hours per day. “Unless you raise[d] 14 kids, you’re not going to be used to this,” Sage told the Globe.

Want to own the inn, but still want time to write? The contest mandates that the winner keep the inn and restaurant open for at least one year after taking over. After that, the facility is yours for the rebranding.

But with a real estate value of about $900,000, the taxes, legal fees and upkeep of the property could be too much to maintain without running some kind of business.

Still interested in becoming the innkeeper?

Yes, your writing skills could help you win this picturesque inn. But if it’s going to be worth the investment for you, you’ll need to love business as well. When you’re tending to guests around the clock, you won’t have much time to escape into a nook or cranny with your notebook.

Our advice: Apply, win the inn and invite TWL readers to a yearly writing retreat on the property. We’ll see you in Maine!

Are you going to enter the essay contest to win the inn?

Filed Under: Craft


  • Shawn Weisser says:

    So, who won?

  • Caphren says:

    Good day Lisa

    This is indeed a wonderful opportunity and I would’ve loved to enter ,but the currency exchange from my country in Africa is a huge amount which leads me to believe that I’m born under a bad luck star ,but I suppose that is live. Please do let me know if there any other competitions like these that does not require an entry fee ?

  • Sharon says:

    I believe the deadline has been extended. Thanks for this extensive piece on the REAL situation here: owning and operating an inn, a business: a rather large job, as your research shows.

  • Colt Kaufman says:

    Definitely interested and up to the challenge as I hope many are! This is such a unique opportunity for both older and younger writers.
    I do hope there are sufficient entry’s for this to move forward as it is such an opportunity for those who live to take on new challenges every morning!

    Best of luck to all who enter and I look forward to seeing the outcome!


  • julie says:

    What an incredibly beautiful building, and a wonderful example of ‘paying it forward’ unfortunately, I can’t enter becase I’m an Australian resident and may have trouble with government legalities, but I have happily shared this on my twitter page, and will link it to my next blog post, about living life with no regrets, later today.

  • David A. Gwynn says:

    What a beautiful generous thing to do.
    Should this contest be open to Canadians as well?

  • Lisa,

    I remember when Janice won the Inn back in 1993. If I’m not mistaken, she’s from Baltimore (my home town). What a cool way to pass the Inn on to the next generation — a great example of thoughtful succession planning.

    I’m sharing this everywhere so she gets her 7500 essay entries. I might even write one myself!


    • Lisa Rowan says:

      Kathryn, isn’t it the coolest succession story? Yes, you’re remembering correctly- Janice had run a restaurant in MD before she won the inn. She was clearly prepared to take over the business. We’ll have to see who gets the big prize this time!

    • Whitey says:

      The winner of the essay contest could end up being 90 years old. This is not about passing the inn to the next generation. Its about passing it on to someone who can write despite their inability to run an inn. This is not what Adam Smith was talking about.

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